|12-04-2011, 07:59 AM||#91|
Wildlife and Nursing Animals
Harry Poto - a 1 year pot adult, rescued after suffering a life threatening injury to the head. Its a nocturnal low rank primate, it feeds on fruit and insects and has chosen to stay in Afi, nobody knows why.
Green Tree Viper - the adult measures about 40-45 cm, it's poisonous but not dangerous. We saw it sleeping one cold wet morning by our water tank. The next morning, it was gone.
The many amazing butterflies that lives in Afi, some as big as a palm are still little known. Their food of choice are rotten bananas.
Lala, the wild civet baby who arrive in the cam soon after us. She is barely 1 month old and her mother and sister were killed by some farmers. While we were in camp, I was her daddy, nursing her with milk and taking her to matinal and evening outing in the undergrowth. Civets grow to the size of a Labrador, are nocturnal and carnivores, but unfortunately orphan babies have a less than 40% chance of survival.
Rhinoceros beetle. It lives in the palm stem and its larvae are edible. This one is a male.
Pius, the 4 months old porcupine who is recovering well after severe injuries from a drill attack. He will return to the wild within a couple of months.
Chimpanzees In Afi
There are two main groups: the chimps in the natural enclosures and the ones in the satellites, who will be release in their new world record home next year. Chimps in the satellite have been rescued from miserable captive conditions. They have never experienced freedom and the chimp extension is destined to provide them with that for the first time in their life. After spending all their life close to humans, these chimps can never successfully return to the wild.
Waiting for their new primary forest enclosure to be finished
Murphy, the former alpha male in the enclosure
Pablo, a lowland chimp with a slight paresis
|12-04-2011, 08:02 AM||#92|
Drills in Afi
|12-17-2011, 02:48 AM||#93|
Ekok - Mamfe: Abandon all hope ye who enter (Dante, Inferno)
Our coworkers from the Afi camp didn't keep their promise to hold us hostages to the project. We secretly wished that somehow we could linger longer, in spite of the pricey Cameroon, Congo and DRC visas already in our passports. But our time to move on had come. And we have been dreaming of Cameroon - nicknamed "miniature Africa" - for a long time. The 9th of October presidential elections had passed peacefully, instead of turning into a bloody conflict, as predicted by the foreign news agencies. Paul Biya had paid for 7 more years of direct acces to Cameroon's wealth and power with a few campaign t-shirts and some bags of cash.
We had taken the visa in Abuja: 1 photo, application form and 50000 CFA. Gas is aprox. 595 CFA/l.
9th of November, last days of rainy season. We zoom from Afi to Ikom, where we fill up for the last time with the dirt-cheap Nigerian petrol and call home. 20 km farther we cross the border from Mfum to Ekok, where the Cameroonian customs officer has some troubles figuring out that our visas are still valid. A few hours and 7000 CFA later we have a Laissez passer for 14 days and we start rolling - late as hell - on the dreaded Ekok - Mamfe road, possibly the most difficult of its kind in all of Africa.
A Nightmare Begins
We are fierce and climb steeper and steeper hills of unsealed mud that has petrified under the scorching sun. Where pools of water linger, the laterite sinks our tires into a sticky swamp of hell. The Chinese are working at this road and they say in 2 years the legendary over-lander's nightmare will be buried under smooth tarmac. For now, the beast is alive and is claiming all our mental and physical energy. Ana walks the toughest parts. It's all challenging, but we are coping well.
Romanians say that "one must not celebrate before the race is over". At a crossing, through a crater the size of a lorry, I feel the clutch on fire and my rear wheel just dead. I'm stuck, I have no clutch and people come running. I know I don't have a spare clutch, nightmare begins. As it turns out, we are on a plantation, where a 10 houses community has set camp to profit from the traffic to Nigeria. We carry alu-boxes, dry sacks and our frozen souls under a palm shed, then we push the bike uphill. A woman fetches us water to shower and plant on Ana's lap a 7 months baby who makes a wee. At might we drop exhausted and in a state of disbelief on our punctured mattresses. In the morning we begin the damage control operation: we have some food (oats, tea, 2 cans, 1 soup) and 4000 CFA (6 Euro). We buy garri, sweet potatoes, Magi, sugar, bananas and oranges and we sent scooter-taxis to Ekok to charge a borrowed SIM. After 4 weeks of conservation work in Nigeria, there we were, living among poachers, smelling the daily catch of bush meat (porcupine, monitor lizard, tortoise) in the villagers' pots and listening how illegal loggers cut rare trees, then ship them to Nigeria on floats during the night. We have to renounce all privacy, constantly scrutinized and hassled by curious passengers, dozens of truck drivers and mechanic wannabes. Kids begged for any plastic spoon and old sock we dared to use. By the third day we were forced to buy at inflated prices the oranges and potatoes that villagers had picked from the floor behind their house. By night, drunken people debating loudly our situation kept us awake, with alarming key words like moto, rich, money, Abuja, kidnapping. When we barely managed to close an eye, the goats and roosters would begin a delirious routine, feeding our paranoia. Every day we felt more tired and hopeless. We missed our scheduled live TED conference, but we somehow managed to contact our Abuja friends and our families. Harry bought a replacement clutch, FedEx-ed it to Abuja, from where it would be trucked to Ikom, then carried over the border by a taxi.
It was the 5th day in Nsanaragati when saw the first white faces. Another overlander's vehicle had gotten stuck in the pothole that had claimed our Tenere. Jacques, Delphine, Lea (4,5 yrs) and Elisa (3 yrs) had left Toulouse for a year long African adventure by Land Rover Defender. It was Elisa's b-day, Lea had a fever, but all they said was: "rescue team is here". We took their generous offer to be towed to Bamenda and after 30 minutes of packing, we were attempting something we'd only seen at Dakar.
Lea is resting with high fever while Gillian is watching.
The shed where we lived for 5 days. © Delphine
The impossible becomes possible on the infernal 10 km to Eyumojok. No image can begin to describe what is like to actually be doing what we did, but that's all we have to remind us of this improbable experience.
One day the Chinese machines will burry the Ekok-Mamfe legend under tarmac.
Resting on some cocoa bags with a high fever from exhaustion. In the background, the car we later helped out of the mud.
The epic day ended with Elisa blowing her 3 candles at the bivouac. © Delphine
Campbells … in Africa
We wash our vehicles.
The road to Bamenda took us another two days, because the good tar is alternating with unsealed patches.
Brilliant camping spot, in the middle of the primary forest. Rain comes over indeed, but we medicate with Pastis and hot dogs.
In Bamenda we camp at Foyer Eglise Presbiteriene and spend our time doing laundry, shopping for necessities, finding a shoe guy to sew our disintegrating slippers and emailing home.
Concha, a protein powerhouse served for breakfast in the north-west
The other overlanders we had met en route are already in Congo and informed us that DRC and Angola visas are impossible to get now, because of the upcoming Congolese elections that are expected to become violent in the buildup. They got stuck in Pointe Noire and had to ship their vehicles (2 cars + 2 bikes) to Namibia and fly via JoBurg. A very scary and expensive option, we are hoping that as we already got our DRC visa we might get lucky with Angola as well in Matadi, if we can reach it before our Congo and DRC visas expire. In the meantime, our clutch arrived in Abuja and will be shipped to Yaounde where we will pick it up next week from the UPS office. With days to spare, we decide to take a joyride on the famous Ring Road in our french friends Landie.
|12-17-2011, 02:53 AM||#94|
The 370 km Ring Road is the most famous piste in Cameroon, crossing a very diverse ethnographic area, home to many of the 280 distinct tribes in the country. We stock on food for the 3-4 days offroading: potatoes, vegs, grasshoppers, fruits.
Yam mountains in Bamenda market
First day: we drive on the piste to Bafut, where we opt out of visiting the local chief compound, because of the tourist tax worthy of a major european museum.
Veggies and grasshopper salad for lunch.
Lea practices for Dakar
One has to earn the perfect camping spot. So after a dignified struggle up on a hill covered in wild flowers and thyme and after some intense machete-gardening, we pitch our tent by a pepper tree and a guava. We would wake up with the most incredible view.
Morning grooming. © Delphine
The locals are herders and they look rather north-african. Mohammed and his sons pay us a pleasant visit in the morning.
The countryside is so beautiful that it's soothing to our recent memories of Nsanaragati.
Lake Bamendjing, that famously has a gas pouch on the bottom.
The second day the track becomes almost unpassable at times, with huge holes and ravines that run through the middle of the road. Jacques graciously allows me to drive for the first half of the day and even if it's a tough job, I am having a lot of fun doing it.
In the evening we camp on the edge of a mountain. We start roasting our sweet potatoes and the excellent beef we got from a butcher in a village. We are soon surrounded by a large muslim family, complete with the two wives and many kids. They give us some space to eat or dinner though, only to visit us again the next morning.
The third day we get going quite late, having to struggle with a leaking differential. The road feels smoother and it twists and turns among logged hills, rice paddies and tea plantations.
The green curvy landscape reminds us of our homeland mountains in summer.
We have lunch in Nkambe: rice, beef stew, chicken, boiled plantain and ero
With our now impeccable sense of finding the right place, we pitch our tent in another super place. On the edge of a eucalyptus forest, with a breathtaking view of the surroundings: villages are dotting green mountains and we see cattle returning home and sun setting down in an explosion of colors.
At over 2300m, the air is fresh and cold. A warm shower, a fire, a Bordeaux and a plate of cabbage with beef - cooked with local ingredients - complete a memorable day.
|12-17-2011, 03:09 AM||#95|
How We Couldn't Fix The Bike
After 4 zen days, we're back in Bamenda and back to our troubled reality. We organize transportation to the capital Yaounde, where we are expecting the clutch. Our only option is to take the night bus, so we bargain hard for the 30 Euro ride. The vehicle was stolen from the EU aids bulk and is barely recognizable under the load of yams and live pigs. A woman stuffs her chicken under my bike, and with only 2 bottles of water, some ground nuts and what we are wearing, we hop on at midnight, only to descend at 6.30 the next morning. It was impossible to close an eye, but somehow someone manages to steal our mobile during the night. On arrival we ignore the rude hasslers in the bus station, push the bike uphill to a Total and hitch a taxi ride to the meeting with the Vidals.
We apply for the Gabon visa (photo, form, 50,000 CFA, 48 hrs) and we set camp on the lawn of the unfriendly presbyterian center, the cheapest accommodation in Yaounde.
The huge water towers are local landmarks. Nearby, flourishing commerce: call booths and candy stalls.
There's plenty of french boulangeries in Yde, so we feast on buttery viennoiserie.
In the afternoon it's barbecue time: fresh mackerel and tilapia brought in from Douala and served with plantain chips and pepper sauce.
The clutch arrives
2 weeks after the bike broke down, we manage to collect our precious parcel.
We are high with joy. Finally we will fix our bike and get going.
Suddenly, my brain freezes over. The clutch discs don't fit! Even though Harry has explained to wemoto.com that we only have one chance to make it, they just sent us the wrong parts. We hit a new dead end.
Later, we would learn that the parts were for the old Tenere.
We pull the cover over our sick bike and we hop again on the Vidal bus. Our fiends suggested we should wait with them in Limbe, which is closer to the entry port for another parcel. This time Harry orders the second clutch from off-the-road.de, who will ship by DHL in about 5 days to Douala.
On the road again, we sample some banana leaf wrapped manioc.
And spicy fish stew.
Coke reigns supreme here.
But beer is still cheaper than water.
The green gold of Cameroon is constantly being lorried out and illegally shipped from Douala to every corner of the planet.
A vision of Mt. Cameroon. The lava giant rises above the ocean at 4090m.
We camp in the parking of Seme Hotel, on Mile 11 beach, where the girls' grandfather is expected to visit with a bag full of french gourmet foods.
Everyday we lunch on bushmeat in Batoke village: gazelle, wild rabbit, with manioc and corn on a cob.
In Limbe we feast on fresh fish in the traditional port. Mt. Cameroon lures us again to climb it, and we decide to go for it during the next 2 days.
After the 1999 eruption, a cloud of volcanic ash changed forever the Limbe beach: now black sand is washed ashore by the warm calm waters of the ocean.
ITW was here!
To be continued.
|12-17-2011, 03:21 AM||#96|
On Top of Mt. Cameroon
To Dr. Anghelescu (Med Sport Clinic), who helped me to walk again and to our friends Andreea Popa & Dumitru Buda.
We start our ascent in Buea, the hub for guide and porter hiring, where we stock on supplies and food. We will follow the shortest, steepest way up, the Race Track. This is the path taken during the annual race to the top, that famously logged in a stupendous 4 hrs. record! The route will take us through 4 distinct geo-climateric zones: tropical rain forest, savannah, alpine and finally steppe.
The 2 of us plus Delphine, Jacques, Edmond the guide and porters Mahindi, Jonas & Ibrahim start the climb at 10.30 in the morning.
We climb the first 500 m through plantain farms. When we finally entered the forest, the air is cooler and there are beautiful tropical flowers and birds.
We take our first break at 1500 m in the 100 yrs. old Hut 1. Our lunch: sardines and bread.
Hours later we are climbing the steepest part: the path is covered in high savannah grasses and in petrified lava.
At New Hut (1800 m).
Stunning scenery. Perfect clouds are tumbling down into the abyss.
Jacques & Delphine
A little after 6 p.m. we hit our target. We reach Hut 2 (2800 m) where the cold wind blows us into the shack. We gather around a steaming pot of Indomie and spaghetti, then we cuddle in or sleeping bags and tent.
At 4.30 we have to wake up, eat our disgusting chocolate sandwich and blindly follow Edmond towards the summit. Only me, Ana and Jacques chose to continue, and we are rewarded with the most amazing sunrise of our lives. The day slowly opens into an explosion of new colors and the birds offer an exclusive concert of delicate music.
Strange trees covered in moss appear from the ghostly layer of fog.
At Hut 3, at 3800 m above the sea level. Unfortunately Ana was forced to forfeit the ascent here, because of an acute headache.
Me and Jacques climb the final 300 m through a weirdly lunar landscape and breathing becomes more difficult with every step we take.
The Earth curvature is clearly visible from the top.
ITW is on the summit!
P.S. The Race Track is a difficult choice. We carried for days our wounds: solar burns, bunions, blisters, cuts and swollen nails. A longer - 3 or 4 days track may be a wiser option, but we are pround and happy to have conquered another dream.
|12-18-2011, 04:22 AM||#97|
Will it buff out?
Joined: Oct 2002
Location: 64800French Pyrenee's
As usual..GREAT pictures....keep them coming....and good luck with your onward journey..
The Suit:What would you condsider to be your greatest weakness?
The Suit: Honesty? I don't think honesty could be construed as a weakness.
Me: I don't give a fuck what you think.
|12-18-2011, 09:46 AM||#98|
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Behind the Redwood Curtain
You have already climbed to the 'top tier' of adventure riders. Compared to those of us riding in the 'civilized' world, your adventure is unbelievable.
|12-18-2011, 10:38 PM||#99|
Joined: Aug 2008
Absolutely phenomenal! Amazing story and outstanding photography!
I can only imagine how you felt when you saw the wrong clutch discs.
These two little girls will have a wonderful childhood.
P.S. Next time, (hopefully there will be no next time), when you need something for Tenere just send me PM. Maybe we will find something...
The Alps 2009
South Africa 2008
|12-19-2011, 09:34 AM||#101|
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: Hellas Alexandroupolis
Thanks for sharing..!! actually the whole trip is astonishing !! I think i`m watching a documentary on t.v. !!!! Well Done... ''real photos you can even taste ''
Let The Good Times Roll..!
|12-21-2011, 07:58 AM||#103|
The Second Clutch Arrives. Will It Fit?
CAMEROON 30/11 - 01/12
The day after we had climbed Mt. Cameroon we felt exhausted in every aspect. Black nails, bleeding toes, sun burns, herpes. As if the long horizontal journey we set out to complete was not enough, we had added to it a long vertical journey. We logged online to check out the status for our delivery, made some calls to DHL Douala and then the customs in the airport to finally clear confusion - as DHL had registered 2 different parcels with the same tracking no. and we were told ours had been delivered to Oslo, Norway. Our parcel was indeed in Douala so we had to organize our trip from Mile 11 to the airport as fast as possible. Luckily a Cameroonian lady stopped by, curious to know about the strangers who were camping in the parking and eager to have some company while waiting for the husband. It proved that the man was attending a meeting nearby and that they lived in Douala, so we asked if they could give us a lift. It was a lovely "hitchhiking" experience, followed by a taxi ride to the miserable place that is DHL customs office, a place of corruption and deceit. We left that place with a lot less money in our pockets ("taxes and duties"), but with our parcel in hand.
Inside the taxi, I torn the paperbox apart: it was the right clutch! We were saved!
We asked the driver to take us to the bus station, we got tickets for the next bus to Yaounde and spend the 2 hours to departure munching on brochettes, fried plantain and fruits.
In the background: us, shabby backpackers in Africa, but with a hope to become overlanders again.
Of course none of the clocks in the station or inside the buses didn't work properly. We have the feeling of being outside any known time or space.
Two parcels: one shipped by FedEx + UPS from the UK, one shipped by DHL from Germany, 3 weeks, plenty of white hairs, a lot of cash and 3 small bags of Haribo bears = new clutch
Deja vu: the second attempt to fix the clutch; this time the place is empty of people, we are alone in a Moebius-like space, with all our hopes and dreams at stake once again
Once again we spread onto the cover all our belongings
A tasty breakfast to fuel our efforts
I manage to get my work done fairly quickly. The hundreds of kilometers of being towed on sloppy roads took a heavy toll on the brake pads, so I have to change those aswell.
It is hard to put into words how we felt when I turned the key in and the engine came back to life. When we knew we were free again to pursue our journey, our dream. We deeply thank our parents, who supported us, Harry, who almost single handily saved us, the Vidals, for offering us a hand and their lovely company during a difficult time of despair and uncertainties.
Even if it's not always hot and sunny in Africa, we are reminded by many improbable Christmas decorations that the winter holidays frenzy is approaching.
The authentic genius loci can only be found again in a delicious plate of beef suya and grilled plantain.
Sun is shining and we are enjoying our last Cameroonian meal. The customs officers didn't even realize our Laissez-Passer was long overdue. Is this a sign that our troubles are over?
|12-21-2011, 09:24 AM||#104|
the (in)famous boxer perv
Looks like the real Africa has began for you with all sorts of challanges and you're doing good - just fantastic pictures from the apes.
And you guys also met Jacques & Delphine (& Co!) and got help! It was the same for us in Nouakchott where we met them and they gave us some tools and a drill from their mighty Landy's toolbox to replace a gearbox bearing. Very decent bunch of people!
If you want some change for a day or two there're good supermarkets in Libreville and in Brazzaville where you can get good european foods and even a decent cheese (but pricy, since everything is imported from far away). From Namibia the luxuries are all back (and affordible!) - hopefully it's a good motivation to push on ;)
Travel safe you two,
|12-21-2011, 09:48 AM||#105|
Joined: Oct 2005
Location: Northern California
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